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by Franz Novotny

grade: 7.5

Watching a film like Exit…but no Panic, Franz Novotny’s first feature film, can be compared to a rollercoaster ride. Irreverent, shocking, surprising, funny and amusing, this work has become a real cult in Austrian cinema.

Wild Vienna

Watching a feature film like Exit…but no Panic, the first feature film – after a long career in television – by the famous Austrian director Franz Novotny, can be compared – without fear of exaggeration – to a rollercoaster ride. Irreverent, shocking, surprising, funny and amusing, this film has become a real cult in Austrian cinema and, on the occasion of the Diagonale 2019, has been presented in the monographic section dedicated to the actor Hanno Pöschl.

In this film, the latter can boast of his most unconventional performance of his long career. His role is that of the young Kirchhoff, a suburban bully who hangs around with his lifelong friend Plachinger (Paulus Manker) and others, “enjoying” playing the role of the seducer and committing petty thefts and acts of gratuitous vandalism. He dreams of one day opening his own coffee shop (hence the theft, at the beginning of the film, of a coffee machine). Perhaps in a faraway place.

A real force of nature, then, who is, in spite of everything, very likeable right from the beginning. At least for a good part of the film and before a successful and perfectly calibrated change in register.

In a real tornado of emotions, we see an unusually colourful, psychedelic and frenetic Vienna where the myth of the distant United States is alive and pulsating (the protagonists themselves seem to want to emulate, for example, the unforgettable James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause). Even the camera, together with an almost heart-stopping editing, perfectly captures all this.

Exit…but no Panic, as expected, caused quite a scandal when it was released. Above all for its highly irreverent and deliberately ironic approach, which, while being goliardic, mercilessly targets Austrian society – and specifically the Viennese upper middle class – strongly criticising the always latent obsolete decadentism and hypocritical respectability. Regardless of the era in which one finds oneself.

Who better, then, than author Peter Turrini – who has based his entire career on such criticism, together with the other members of the Social Theatre – could give support to this large group of post-sixty-eight anarchists? For the occasion, the writer even played the role of a frankfurter vendor, who was mocked by Kirchhoff and his friend, to the point of seeing his kiosk crashing into some parked cars.

And how about the experimental film director Kurt Kren, who was so irreverent and unashamed that he committed lewd acts in front of an open window?

Every role is suddenly overturned, every certitude called into question. Even Kirchhoff’s character suddenly seems different from how he was portrayed at the beginning. There is no (deliberate) linearity in the characterisation of the figures. The director absolutely doesn’t want the viewer to have any sort of certainty. Certainty is for the weak, for the cowardly, for the lazy. Better, much better, to let oneself be led into a dance in which anything can happen. Just like the Strauss waltz that elliptically opens and closes Exit…but no Panic, with an evocative image of the roofs of Vienna.

(Maybe) there is always time to grow up. In the meantime, when not doing damage, it’s much better to stop in a convertible car and look at the moon, fantasizing about long journeys.

Original time: Exit…nur keine Panik
Directed by: Franz Novotny
Country/year:Austria, West Germany / 1980
Running time: 102’
Genre: mistery, action, grotesque, comedy
Cast: Hanno Pöschl, Isolde Barth, Paulus Manker, Eddie Constantine, Peter Weibel, Peter Turrini, Kurt Kren
Screenplay: Gustav Ernst, Franz Novotny
Cinematography: Alfio Contini
Produced by: Franz Novotny

Info: the page of Exit…but no Panic on the website of the Filmarchiv Austria